Off the Brush: The Process of Letting Go
When Nick Slavik, sole proprietor of Nick Slavik Painting & Restoration Co. started his business, he had two goals:
● First, he wanted to be the best craftsman and provide the highest quality work
● Second, he wanted to provide the best customer service.
What Nick quickly realized was, “there was an expiration date to [his] goals”- as he aged, so would his ability to churn out projects to maintain a steady income. He understood that to be successful, he would need to focus on multiplying his bandwidth by developing formal processes, understanding his goals, making strategic hires, and delegating out responsibility. Below are insights from Nick Slavik, and fellow PCA professionals: Brandon Lewis; Jim Kaloutas; and Bill Silverman, about growing a painting business.
The goal of a business owner in the coatings industry is to buy labor wholesale and sell it retail, says Brandon Lewis of the Academy of Professional Painting Contractors. To do this, it is crucial to understand the numbers and processes behind your business. He and Nick agree that new business owners should start by developing a baseline of costs associated with each job they complete (aka job costing). For each project track the following numbers:
a. cost of materials used on each job
b. cost of labor per hour
c. the time it takes to complete the job from the day you start, and each day after, until the day you close out the project
Once you have tracked this information for several jobs of various sizes, create an average by which you can compare and anticipate costs for future projects. Then develop the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the successful completion of a job. This includes protocols, techniques, tips and tricks, and standards for a job that you hold yourself and your employees to maintaining as the baseline that you’ve created.
“Write down your goals- every quarter, every year!” According to Jim Kaloutas, President of Kaloutas Painting, think about where you want to be in a year, three years, five years, and then write it down. Always look for areas that make you feel uncomfortable and then challenge them. Jim coaches, “frustration is a good thing.” Feeling that there are not enough hours in the day or your team is unreliable provides an opportunity for you to imagine something different. Jim tells others to picture themselves in the situation they want to be in, write down those goals, and define the people and customers that align with that picture they have for their business.
According to Jim, Nick, and Bill Silverman, of Springboard Business Coaching, hiring is where vision and baseline meet to determine if your hirees have the right skills and values for your company! Nick states, “Each individual that you hire should be performing at a level similar to your baseline.” This helps ensure that the people you hire bring money into the business, and prevents you from being the only high-performer. Jim believes to successfully hire a long-term employee, you have to understand “what’s in it for them.” As your business grows you will need to promote people to leadership positions, and having people that align with your vision can be immensely beneficial.
Finally, to successfully hire people, Bill explains, “You have to keep adding structures.” According to Bill, the goal is to “clone your first crew,” and to do that you must create simple and easy to follow processes and procedures.
According to Brandon, there are four things that you need your employees to do:
■ Bring projects in on budget
■ Bring back a positive customer satisfaction survey
■ Follow simple company processes
■ Don’t lie, cheat or steal
This is achieved through onboarding and ongoing training. Employees need to understand the baseline that has been set for all projects, and the processes they should follow to achieve that baseline. Furthermore, they need to understand the vision of the company and be instructed on how to interact with customers. These processes are determined by you as the business owner and should be communicated early and often.
Recognize your role at each stage of the business growth process, and recognize that building a business is a letting go process. According to Bill Silverman, “The tools you needed to start your business aren’t the ones that you need to grow your business.” Find ways to free up your energy implementing procedures and systems, make strategic hires, and align yourself with people to help you grow. Create expectations that you can trust, then you can be free to focus on the areas in which you really enjoy.